Apr 03, 2020 Last Updated 5:13 AM, Mar 31, 2020

Indigenous land rights and the ILO

Who cares that Indonesia's indigenous peoples are losing their land? The International Labour Organisation does, more than almost anyone else in the world, says TOM ETTY.

The only international instruments specifically addressing indigenous and tribal peoples' rights are two conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Convention No. 107 concerns the 'Protection and Integration of Indigenous and Other Tribal and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries'. It was adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1957 and came into force two years later, when it had received the required minimum number of ratifications. Convention No. 169 concerning 'Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries' is a revision of Convention No. 107. It was adopted in 1989 and came into force in 1991.

Convention 107 has been ratified by 27 countries. Convention 169, which was designed because the ILO felt that this figure was a bit disappointing, has acquired 7 ratifications to date. Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples have been discussed frequently and in great detail by the Conference Committee on the Application of Ratified Conventions.

No direct access

It should be noted here that the supervisory procedure of the ILO is only accessible by the constituents of the ILO, i.e. by governments, employers' organisations and trade unions. The indigenous peoples themselves, or national and international non- governmental organisations (NGOs) representing their interests, do not have direct access. The ILO has involved them in the preparation of the two conventions mentioned (in particular Convention 169). And the secretariat of the ILO, the International Labour Office, maintains contact with them. But the peoples concerned, and their representatives and sympathisers, consider this a highly unsatisfactory situation.

The government of Indonesia has ratified neither Convention 107 nor Convention 169. As far as I have been able to find out, they have hardly shown interest in the work which led to the preparation and adoption of these instruments by the ILO. There is no indication that they are keen to become a party to the revised Convention (No. 169).

That is a great pity, as there are many indigenous peoples living in the Indonesian archipelago who could greatly benefit from the protection it offers. It seems, however, that the government of Indonesia does not want to recognise them as peoples as defined by the ILO.


Here we have an interesting paradox. The Indonesian government has regularly expressed the view that ILO standards do not sufficiently take into account the special problems of developing countries, and that many of these standards derive from Western or industrialised countries' values. Now, although several of the latter do have indigenous peoples within their boundaries, the majority of countries which are familiar with the questions addressed in these ILO conventions are developing countries - and they had a strong input in them.

In short: the criticism against the allegedly Western-inspired universal character of ILO standards is to a very high degree unjustified, but in this particular case it would be absolutely pointless. One can even maintain that certain values which the government of Indonesia stresses so often (like consensus building) figure prominently in these conventions, and that the procedural character of most provisions offer ample room and flexibility for measures optimally adapted to local realities.


However, the lack of interest displayed by Indonesia does not necessarily mean that the ILO conventions on indigenous peoples' rights are not interesting for these peoples in the country, for NGOs in and outside Indonesia advocating their interests, and for intergovernmental institutions with activities in Indonesia.

The value of the Indigenous Peoples Conventions will probably only become clear to a wider audience if and when the United Nations adopt their long abided Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (in the year 2004, as is hoped and expected). That Declaration will probably show a high degree of indebtedness to the ground-breaking work of the ILO, not only in traditional ILO-fields like conditions of employment, vocational training, and social security and health, but also and in particular with regard to land rights.


Indonesia has ratified ten ILO Conventions, most of them of a 'technical' nature, i.e. dealing with concrete working conditions. Among the ten are two so-called 'human rights conventions': No. 29 on Forced Labour, and No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. The Forced Labour Convention is relevant to indigenous peoples.

Without ratification, the indigenous peoples in Indonesia cannot benefit from the provisions of the ILO conventions. The government does not have any obligation whatsoever. That does not mean, though, that the conventions, and in particular Convention 169, are irrelevant.


First, it is important for those directly concerned to know which, according to a large and important intergovernmental organisation, are their legitimate rights. As concerns land the ILO says among others that the rights of ownership and possession of these peoples over the lands which they traditionally occupy shall be recognised.

Their rights to the natural resources pertaining to their lands shall be specially safeguarded, and these rights include the right to participate in the use, management and conservation of these resources. Governments' rights to explore or exploit these resources are qualified by provisions for consultations, for participation in the benefits, and for fair compensation for damages resulting from such activities.

Also, the powers of governments to remove indigenous peoples from their lands are qualified by similar rules and by a right to return 'whenever possible'. The Convention obliges governments to consult indigenous peoples on several vital issues, and to establish means by which they can freely participate at all levels of decision making in bodies responsible for policies and programmes concerning them. Most important, it spells out that the consultations shall be undertaken 'in good faith and in a form appropriate to the circumstances, with the objective of achieving agreement or consent to the proposed measures'.

These elements are cornerstones for any set of requests, demands or claims of indigenous peoples in Indonesia to their government. They are important points of orientation in international forums whenever they think that their rights are violated by the government of Indonesia.


Indigenous peoples in Indonesia, and Indonesian NGOs that want to engage in advocacy for their interests, may use the key elements of the conventions in efforts to put pressure on the government to create certain machinery, for instance for meaningful consultation, in line with the provisions of the convention, even though the government has no intention to ratify.

Of course, it is a mere illusion that the government would be open to such suggestions without any additional political pressure. But whenever conditions develop in such a way that it must take concrete steps to give some satisfaction to inside and/or outside pressure and find solutions, the points designed by the ILO might prove useful and constructive. The parties concerned could draw the attention of the National Commission for Human Rights of Indonesia to the provisions of the ILO instrument.

For non-Indonesian NGOs that want to contribute to the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in Indonesia, ILO Convention 169 offers some interesting opportunities too. For instance, they may try to induce their own governments to ratify the Convention, so as to give it a broad international basis. In this connection it should be noted that a number of industrial countries in Europe, with and without indigenous peoples, have decided or are presently considering to become a party to the Convention.

These governments might also feel committed to stimulate and financially support ILO work concerning indigenous peoples. Such work could among others take the form of technical assistance provided by the International Labour Office to governments of developing countries that are interested, in principle, to adopt the ILO standards but think they cannot cope with the financial implications. Knowledge that such assistance is available may, in turn, be helpful to peoples and NGOs in Indonesia in their discussions with the government.

Trade unions

A final word, in this context, about the trade unions in all this. Unfortunately, the Indonesian trade unions belong to those who are not so free and independent of their government as real tripartism would require. But after the restructuring effort of the 'official' trade union corporation SPSI and the establishment of sectoral unions each within its field, they are compelled now to show to the international trade union movement that they are heading towards more autonomy.

This will not be an easy process, and it will require time. Some of these unions, organising agricultural and plantation workers, and wood and timber workers, cover sectors cutting through the world of life and work of indigenous peoples in Indonesia. The international federations to which these SPSI unions dearly want to affiliate should not fail to remind them of the Workers' Group input in the work which resulted in ILO Convention 169, and to tell them that they expect a clear commitment of a member organisation in Indonesia.


The revised ILO Convention on Indigenous Peoples of the ILO (No. 169, of 1989) is an important instrument for the protection of indigenous peoples, including their land rights.

It is important that this Convention receive a much larger number of ratifications than the original Indigenous Peoples Convention (No. 107, of 1957). Massive ratification will make it difficult for governments of countries like Indonesia, which have many indigenous peoples within their boundaries but are very reluctant to see eye to eye with them, to maintain that attitude.

Ratification by Indonesia would considerably strengthen the position of indigenous peoples vis-a-vis the government, without bringing the government into a disadvantageous position. It would raise the prospects of finding constructive and sustainable solutions for problems which, sooner or later, will manifest themselves in forms which then will be even much more difficult to handle - if they can be handled at all.

Ratification is a precondition for proper ILO supervision of the application of the Convention in law and in practice by the government. Organisations committed to the cause of indigenous peoples should therefore lobby their governments to ratify Convention 169. This would be a major concrete contribution to the success of the current decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples. It would be a firm stone on the way to adoption by the UN General Assembly of a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of the decade in 2004.


Indigenous peoples and NGOs advocating their interests should be made much better aware of the contents of the Convention and what it can mean for them. They could try various ways and means to convince the government to open certain procedures for consultations and participation in decision-making laid down in the Convention even before ratification.

The ILO and some of its industrialised member countries which have a special interest in the problems addressed by the Convention could be helpful in facilitating this by rendering technical assistance and if necessary help to provide the funds for this.

In order to defend and promote the interests of indigenous peoples more effectively, these peoples themselves and interested NGOs should seek much closer contacts and cooperation with the constituents of the ILO than today. Several trade unions have already expressed their interest in this.

Important as the work in the ILO Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and in the UN Commission for Human Rights is for the indigenous peoples and NGOs, they would be well advised not to target exclusively these two bodies but also spend some energy on the promotion of better cooperation between them and the ILO.

Tom Etty is policy advisor for international affairs at the Dutch labour union FNV. This article is extracted from a paper made available at the INFID conference in Canberra.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

John Rumbiak: 'We've lived here thousands of years'.

Inspired by student discussions, John Rumbiak became a spokesman for disempowered indigenous peoples in Irian Jaya.

I was born in Biak in 1962. In 1982 I went to study English at Cenderawasih University in Abepura. Actually I was interested in politics but the university did not offer it. I lived with other students in the hostel. We talked about development in Irian, and we thought the people had no idea about what was best for them.


But I did see one NGO that had a different vision. There was the mainstream from the government, and this NGO with its own local vision. That was YPMD, at that time led by Goerge Aditjondro. George and the friends from Java had a very contrasting vision to that mainstream. It was interesting, but also very suitable.

So I began to think perhaps I would be no longer an observer but a worker. We began by developing our talent for music. We formed a folk singing group called Mansinam. It was in the same spirit as the late Arnold Ap's Mambesak. We sang church songs, but it started from there, adapting local dances.

I then entered YPMD in 1989, and travelled to various kampongs around Jayapura. It was a great experience. I then went to the Baliem Valley with the Dani people, and to the Asmats. These people all had potential, but it was stifled by the presence of big projects.


In Asmat they had a logging company in which Mrs Tien Suharto also had a share. I saw that the Asmat had a myth of origin in which they came from the trees. But they were forced to exploit their own mother, the trees they had to chop down for that company. They got very low wages for working from six in the morning to six in the evening. They didn't even get that amount in full, because they bought coffee, sugar, cigarettes on credit from the company. So sometimes they got nothing at all.

The exploitation was cruel in a society already domesticated by the gospel brought by the missionaries. They no longer had the fight in them of an earlier generation.

Initially, YPMD made studies of various areas. George Aditjondro started this off. The results were spread around through seminars and the mass media. Most government officials live in the city and they didn't know. So YPMD acted as a catalyst, and as a bridge between society and the government.

Now you have been six years at YPMD. Do you see any general patterns in the social issues around Irian Jaya?

Above all, I see a strong security approach everywhere in the big projects that bring in so much income for the government. This is true particularly of Freeport, but also of the oil and gas fields in Sorong. Freeport has these exclusion zones. The presence of these big concerns with their security apparatus is a major threat to the ability of the local communities to stay in touch with one another or even with their gardens.

The law makes little reference to local land rights, and the law on mining contains no concessions at all to the idea that the original inhabitants might own resources below the surface. The same is true of the law on forestry. This is a weapon of the civil and military authorities. They all work together hand in hand to pressure the local inhabitants.


The confict between Freeport and the original inhabitants is due to the fact that, however innocent the inhabitants may be from a modern point of view, they have a traditional system built up over thousands of years. They have their own system of government. Their own belief system teaches them how to interact with nature. Natural resources have a religious value. Then when outsiders come in and make surveys in sacred areas, the original inhabitants become afraid of a disaster. They might get into trouble with their ancestors for the trespassing. So they have to fight.

The new system makes no accommodation with the existing system. When there are protests, people do not inquire why. The newcomers should ask why the locals put border markers all the way around the Ertzberg mountain of ore, as the Amungme elders did in 1967 during the exploration phase. Because that was a sacred area. But the company felt it had already discharged its responsibilities, and they looked to the government and to the military. That was where the cozy relation, hand in hand with the government and the military, became visible. The elders' protest was seen as a threat, as subversive.

One percent

We have lived thousands of years in this area. When did the government come, with all its laws on land ownership? Perhaps the recent offer by Freeport to set aside 1% of annual revenue for the local community is part of the recognition. But we should not look at a solution before we have a process in place.

For instance, we doubt the independence of the environmental audit done recently by Dames and Moore. There must be an investigation to see whether Freeport was involved in human rights violations. And then there must be discussion of the losses carried by the local people for all these years. We cannot just leap straight to a 1% solution.

What happened to the past? That's the big question. So if we are enticed, we will not answer immediately. No way! We do not want those 30 years to be forgotten just like that. The January 1974 agreement between the Amungme people, the government and Freeport, needs to be reviewed. That agreement contained a social responsibility clause that has not been fulfilled to the satisfaction of the people. Only when that is all cleared up can we start talking about the 1%. We need a negotiating atmosphere that is democratic and free of pressure, mediated by an independent body. The people must be accompanied by a lawyer.

If there is no process such as this, Freeport creates a new problem for itself. They have shown a concern for the biophysical world in their position papers, but they ignored completely the question of the indigenous ownership of land. I have argued that this would cause a big problem. Now that is exactly what happened.

Indonesian law considers the deep jungle to be empty, to have no owners. This is a very wrong perception. I want to stress that in Irian, there is not a single piece of empty land. Every tree has an owner.

John Rumbiak is the coordinator for studies and advocacy at the Rural Community Development Foundation (Yayaysan Pengembangan Desa Masyarakat, YPMD) in Abepure, near Jayapura, Irian Jaya.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Noer Fauzi: 'We promote community-based land mapping'

The Consortium for Agrarian Reform is a new umbrella grouping of NGOs interested in land issues. Chairman Noer Fauzi rebuts the land administration project in which AusAID is a partner.

You challenged Ian Anderson by saying the project makes land an economic entity, with 'acquisition' its most important characteristic. Ian Anderson had said that even if Australia did not participate in the project, Indonesia would do it anyway. AusAID contributes skills to the project, which will lead to reliable information that can be used for the right purposes.

There are some myths about this project. It veils the real problems.

First, he wants to demonstrate AusAID capabilities to other countries. But this is a type of domination. Many countries, such as Indonesia, already have a specific, heterogeneous land management system. If Australia gives its 'help' to homogenise Indonesian land administration, it is a form of management domination.

They say: 'It is better to have only a single land management system.' But this is a myth. In our view the most accurate land management is based on specific historical and cultural values. We have never made that administration homogeneous.

The second point is related to the economic interest of this project. After we register our land, who will get the comparative advantage? Big business wants to acquire the land. If we don't have the money for legal support, then it is a danger for us.

So how do you respond to his comment that 4 million Indonesians will benefit from this project?

I think they will not benefit. Having a certificate puts you into the capitalist arena. But you will be a weak participant, and you could be worse off than before. The rules will result in an unequal land distribution. This gives rise to many problems.

For example, many men and women have already lost control over their land, and have moved to the cities as migrant workers in the informal sector. Every year, more than 100 000 people come to the Jakarta Megacity. Most of them are 'land refugees'. The problems are based on the unequal land structures near the city. The loss of control over land is a real threat for many people. The project is located near the growth pool of the cities. It is facilitating big business to acquire land from ordinary people through land administration improvement.

I don't understand well enough the history of land disputes. Did this loss of control over land occur in recent times, or does it go back a long way? Were there large land holdings in West Java at the beginning of this century giving rise to unequal land distribution, or is it a result of the recent heavy industrialisation in West Java?

The unequal land distribution goes back to the Dutch colonial Agrarian Law of 1870, which permitted large plantations. There were many peasant revolts in West Java for that reason. The 1960 law on land redistribution (UUPA) aimed to change that. But reform was cut short by the violent tragedy of 1965. The New Order has a capitalist strategy that is contradictory to agrarian reform.

Recent agro- or manufacturing industrialisation needs much more land, for plantations, for the tourist industry (golf fields), for the small holder nucleus schemes, for industrial parks. If you go from Jakarta to Bandung through Cikampek you can see by the roadside many industrial parks where there used to be good rice fields.

You criticise the National Land Agency BPN for its lack of accountability. Ian Anderson said that if AusAID does not get involved, those problems will remain. He believes the problems can at least be minimized by AusAID involvement. If AusAID is not involved there will be technical strengthening from the World Bank, but no reform. What do you think?

There are different ideas about this. The Australian government assumes that if it gives a grant to the Indonesian government, that is the same as a grant to the people. But in our view the state does not adequately represent the interests of the people. The Indonesian government's idea of progress is based on state power. But there is a discrepancy between the state and the people.

Our experience with land conflicts shows we do not get the benevolence of the state or of BPN. There are many examples of this. BPN's problems are not technical, but political. It can't do much to empower the people vis-a-vis big business or the plantations. The project will empower BPN, which does not represent the people's needs. It is just a bureaucracy. The bureaucracy in Indonesia, as Arief Budiman says, is rentier, authoritarian and bureaucratic. Governments assume these characteristics benefit the people, but we dispute that.

If AusAID asked you to write an alternative proposal for land administration in Indonesia, what would it contain?

There are alternatives. We would like to see a pluralistic land management system. One alternative we promote is community- based land mapping. This is most appropriate for indigenous peoples' land. It gives people an opportunity to participate fully in the mapping of their land. After this process they can give the information to the state or to other groups and say: 'This is our land'. The government just receives their information.

This is very useful for several reasons. First, it is participatory. Second, it is a bottom-up method, not top-down. It is not a positivistic way of administration, but just common sense. The power of common sense is very great. 'This tree is the limit of our land. We declare this is the limit.' It is important for indigenous people. Our alternative is based on the NGO experience with indigenous peoples.

However, near the city, where there is a conflict with big business, there ought to be another alternative. We propose a land bank, namely a collectively controlled amount of land for landless peasants or homeless city people. The point there too is to empower the people first, and make land administration subservient to people's needs.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Maria Pakpakhan: 'Feminism is a choice of life'

Maria is a programme officer at INFID in Jakarta. She speaks of her student days, of mass action and specialised lobbying. And of feminism.

How did you become an activist?

It started when I was a student in an elite Catholic senior high school in Jakarta. It had a programme where students they thought were talented were introduced to other parts of society. Every week we went to visit prostitution and slum areas. This is how I began to learn about the facts of our society.

Then in 1988 I moved to Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. At that time, student activism was starting again, first with a commemoration of Universal Human Rights day in late 1988. There was a great atmosphere on campus in those days. Kusnadi was the rector. He was sympathetic to students and didn't allow the military to intervene on campus.

The campus press was very lively. There was a lot of interaction between students on all the campuses. Then the Kedung Ombo Dam issue came along, and that triggered the development of a big student movement. We formed a student action group to protest the dam development and the ousting of the people from their land.

I still remember all the demonstrations we held very well. In the years that followed, Yogyakarta students held some big demonstrations, against plans by the local government to demolish a gathering place of local artists, or against the government's attempts to introduce a new student senate.

At the same time, I also became increasingly interested in feminism, which I had also first come across at senior high school. In 1989 we set up the Yogyakarta Women's Discussion Forum. This mainly involved students, but also a few housewives. We did some consciousness raising work, held seminars on feminism, produced some comics and other publications, and held an advocacy campaign defending women petty traders from the Beringharjo market which was being demolished. This went on until 1991.

There was a really exciting atmosphere in the Yogyakarta student groups at that time - we discussed feminism, Marxism, anarchism, liberalism - all the isms. This gave us a strong ground in theory. Later when I went to Holland after I had to flee because of the 'Land for the People' calendar, I took development studies and got a stronger grounding in feminism.

Now you have been working for INFID for about a year. Do you see a tension between the aims of the student movement and the NGOs, or are they the same?

The aims are more or less the same: a better society, especially for the poor, the workers, peasants and so on. I think students and NGOs have many similarities, but there are some differences.

Students are more militant. Students feel: 'We can do anything if we just work on it'. NGOs believe in lobbying, they carry out more organised international advocacy, especially through INFID. Students believe more in mass action. NGOs do not believe in mass action, that is one of the main differences.

Also, I think the student movement is more transparent, more accountable. It is more difficult to talk about the accountability of NGOs to the rest of society, because of the issue of their funding by overseas agencies.

So do you think the student movement and the NGOs are complementary?

They are complementary, but there is also the question of balance. There are times when mass action should be bigger. There is also a time when NGOs can form a real community and play an important role. Like in the Philippines now, where NGOs have both the ability to lobby and a very strong mass action base. The problem for the Indonesian NGOs is to transform themselves into something like that, a movement with a mass base. I think very few NGOs really do have a mass base at the present time.

How compatible are your aspirations as a feminist with the world of NGOs in which you now find yourself?

There's a great difference. Feminism is a struggle of your whole life. I think feminism is more revolutionary than anything else, because you aim at changing not only society, but also human beings, the relations between men and women, getting them to accept each other. Feminism is still evolving, it's still unfinished, it's changing. It's not a trend, it's a choice of life, an ideology.

Do you find the ideology of feminism well expressed in the NGO movement in Indonesia?

Oh, completely and absolutely not. I think because of the Women's Decade and because many funding agencies have emphasised women's issues, now many NGOs do understand the question of gender, which is a product of feminism.

But people don't want to call themselves feminists. They don't mind being called 'gender sensitive', but gender is only one aspect: feminism is the mother, gender is the child. In NGOs I think the changes have so far been very superficial and artificial. You can't change attitudes simply by three days' training.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Pieter Yan Magal: 'They don't consider us real humans'

Pieter Magal works in community development at Freeport. He is from the local Amungme tribe, and speaks of both the good and the bad that Freeport has brought.

What impact has Freeport had on the Amungme community?

The main impact has been suffering, spiritual and physical suffering. Our sacred sites have been destroyed by their sophisticated technology, and they do not value us as human beings. Rather, they see us as creatures in the process of becoming human.

There are reports about restrictions on freedom of movement of the Amungme people, especially women. Is that true?

Yes. In some places, Amungme women have to report to a guard post when they go to their gardens and when they come home. In November last year Amungme representatives accompanied Bishop Munninghoff on a trip to some regions around the mines. At Tsinga they told us they were required to report at guard houses when they went to and from their gardens. If they are a little late, they are asked all sorts of questions. Even if they are not physically tortured, they feel intimidated and pressured by their questioners, who accuse them of communicating with the OPM. In the past, the people lived freely and could come and go as they pleased. It was quite normal to spend one or two days at a time in the gardens, to sleep overnight there. But now they are watched and cannot do this anymore.

After this we met with Freeport management and told them that the people were unhappy with the situation. They promised us they would look into it, but to the present there has been no change. In fact, we heard that just a few days after our visit to Tsinga all the young people fled to the forest because of the intimidation. They have still not returned. They have joined with Kelly Kwalik of the OPM.

What is the situation in Timika since the riots? Are there many troops now?

In fact the situation is normal, it is calm. But it is a false calm, a calm forced on the local people by the massive force there. People are not quiet because their hearts are quiet, but because they are afraid.

At the seminar on Freeport prior to the INFID conference, Freeport spokesperson Mr. Paul Murphy said he believed the riots were organised, but he did not know whether by NGOs or by the military. Do you have a comment?

If we look at how the military behaved during the riots, it is clear they were indeed engineered by the military to further their own interests. Their aim was to destroy the struggle of Lemasa to represent the Amungme people and to demand the rights of the Amungme people.

When the riot started, military troops were present, but took no action. Military vehicles were present in the midst of the riot, some of the rioters were even seen inside military vehicles. No action was taken. At both Tembagapura and Timika we know that the people were given permission by the military to participate in the riot for two hours. A number of rioters told us this directly. So we concluded the military were deeply involved in the riots.

Murphy claimed the Freeport mine has caused a great population increase in the Timika area, as people from other tribes come there. Can you comment on his view that inter-tribal conflict generated by this situation was a cause of the recent riots?

Indeed, there are conflicts between the Amungme people and newcomers from other tribes. But we have our own means of resolving these conflicts. They are quite normal. There are many different tribes in the area. And long before the government, Freeport and the churches came there, there was communication between all the tribes. There were contacts from the time of our ancestors. We used to barter with them. The Amungme people would exchange goods with the Moni, Kari, Dani and the others.

And if there was a conflict - about territorial boundaries, hunting grounds, rights, women, dowry or anything else - we have our own customary ways of resolving these conflicts. Our traditional laws are far more just than the law of the Indonesian state. Freeport just wants to blame everything on conflict between the tribes in order to cover up its own responsibility.

Are there any Amungme employed at Freeport mine?

Some Amungme people are employed at and around the mine. A handful are called members of staff, but are not given any power to make decisions. It's like being ordered into battle without being given weapons.

Why is this?

First, the company clearly doubts our abilities. That's what I mean when I say the company considers us not to be real human beings, but creatures in the process of becoming human.

Second, people who have positions of responsibility in the company have access to Freeport facilities: houses, vehicles and so on. But they don't want to give these things to Amungme people, because they fear that we'll use the vehicles to communicate with the OPM, to take them food, to transport them and so on. This is a new order from the military.

I work for Freeport myself, and used to have a company vehicle, a small truck. But now following the riots in Timika it has been taken away from me, and is being used by the military for patrols.

Have Freeport provided facilities to the Amungme people, like hospitals or schools?

Yes, they have provided several health clinics and small schools in the villages. In Timika there is a high school with a boarding house which can take in 118 boarders. I am the supervisor at this boarding house. These are especially for Amungme people. The health clinics are open to all who live in the area, and provide a free service.

There is also a 'business incubator' programme specifically designed to help Irianese people establish small businesses - by providing loans, getting contracts with Freeport and so on. But in practice it is usually used to help outsiders from Sulawesi, Ambon and Java.

We fight with Freeport over the bad things they have done. But we do not fight with them over the good things they have done. Some of the things they have done are good, like the health services. Almost 60% of patients at the Freeport health services are from the local community.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Stephanus Djuweng: 'Development is an extension of colonialism'.

After years researching his own Dayak culture in Kalimantan (Borneo), Stephanus concludes it has nothing to gain and much to lose from 'development'.

Inside Indonesia: What threats do the Dayak people face at the moment?

There are three ways by which the Dayak people, and all indigenous peoples of Indonesia, are being destroyed or coopted.

The first is at the verbal level, where school students are taught not to appreciate their own cultural and social heritage. There is some resistance to that. Some students just avoid following instructions from their teachers, for example.

Second is the behavioural level, where indigenous people are 'taught' how to act or behave in a 'modern' way, by wearing shoes or good clothes, for example. There is also some resistance to this, when many simply don't care about these things.

The third level is what I call the performance level, where the capitalistic economy, big plantations or government projects take land from the local people, sometimes by force. When this happens, local society is transformed, because they no longer have land.

Dayak culture is actually wet rice-centered. Once you replace the old padi agricultural system with plantations, the Dayak cultural heritage is completely transformed. In some areas there are now totally new kinds of Dayak communities, where they no longer perform traditional practices. And the cause was land grabbing by development projects, for example palm oil or timber projects.

How do the Dayaks lose their land?

Sometimes force is used. But at other times there is a 'persuasive' approach, so landholders feel they are transferring their land by their own choice. Sometimes money is given, but the most common form is that the traditional chiefs are coopted.

You mean they are offered positions of power?

Not only power, but promises of schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water supplies - provided they sign the land transfer papers. The papers are then handed to government officials at public ceremonies, witnessed by the people. Of course, people don't want to protest at such big public gatherings, especially because they are attended by officials and military officers.

Who or what do you blame for the loss of the Dayak people's heritage?

Actually I don't blame only the Indonesian government. Because beyond the government there is a global dominant force: development.

If you read Indonesian history, local resistance against land acquisition by those in power has been happening for hundreds of years. Diponegoro led a revolt against the Dutch when they were taking land to build along the northern coast of Java.

The same thing is happening now in Kalimantan and in Irian. Local people are protesting against land acquisition, carried out in the name of development. So I ask myself, what is really the difference between colonialism and development? It's only that the first was done by a colonial government, the second by our so- called independent government. And that's not a significant difference.

If the Dayak people could choose their own kind of development, what would it look like?

For the time being, the Dayak people don't really have a clear position. Development has been such a big force. It has coopted so many of us from the time we were very young. You are told that development is good for you, it will increase your living standards and give you an easy life, and that traditional values and systems are obstacles to modernisation and development.

But there is increasing awareness among Dayak people that, if they had the freedom to choose, they would choose sustainability rather than development. Because development is an extension of colonialism. Development projects in Indonesia, as around the world, only marginalise the local peoples and deprive them of their own land and resources.

Some people might argue that we can make development sustainable. But in my opinion it cannot be sustainable, and cannot bring justice or prosperity to the people. Instead, it has brought two big global crises: an environmental crisis, and a crisis of social justice. In the US, although the GNP has increased, the index of social welfare has declined. People have no leisure, no community life, no extended relationships or friendships. People are just in a hurry to make money.

We can learn from indigenous peoples in my area for instance. In 1970 when I was still a small boy, we had zero population growth and no income per capita. There was no investment or services, but we were very happy. We had good quality food and everything we needed from nature. But with the arrival of development projects, the Dayaks were marginalised, and collective riches were replaced by individual riches.

At present I don't think development can bring a prosperous and just society. There is no sustainable development, it's an absurd notion.

What is your organisation doing to address the impact of development?

We conduct research on the cultural heritage of the Dayaks, because we need to revitalise that heritage. We also try to raise public awareness about the situation of the Dayaks, not only in Indonesia, but globally. We argue that we need to be careful about using the discourse of economic development, that we don't need to follow in the footsteps of the West.

At the local level we have tried to publish books on Dayak history, indigenous wisdom and so on. We try to convince people that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their own social structure and cultural practices, to control their natural resources and land. Indigenous peoples have been portrayed as primitive, half-human, uncivilised for so long that sometimes they begin to believe it themselves. Overcoming this is part of the function of our organisation.

What support do you seek from overseas groups?

For a start, we would be happy if they called on the Indonesian government to ratify the UN convention on the prevention of racial discrimination, as well as ILO Convention 169. These both recognise and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. More generally, we need all forms of support and solidarity to continue our struggle for the recognition, respect and protection of indigenous peoples' rights in Indonesia.

Stephanus Djuweng works at the Institute of Dayakology, in Pontianak, West Kalimantan.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Women feed Malaysian boom

Tens of thousands of Indonesian women work in Malaysia's booming economy as domestics and prostitutes. Often illegal, they have few rights. SIDNEY JONES visits them.

By 1995, Malaysia had become the largest importer of labour in Asia, with a foreign workforce, legal and illegal, estimated to be well over one million men and women. The vast majority were Indonesian, most were unskilled and most were illegal - that is, they had come without proper documentation or overstayed their visas in violation of Malaysia's immigration laws.

The presence of so many immigrants had become a major domestic political issue within Malaysia, a sensitive foreign policy question in Indonesian-Malaysian relations, and a growing human rights concern.

For and against

On the domestic side, the Malaysian government was under pressure from some sectors, notably the Malaysian Agricultural Producers Association and the construction industry as well as from some state governments such as Johor, to bring in more workers.

At the same time there was growing pressure from the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress to stop the flow, on the grounds that migrants were depressing the wage structure and removing incentives to attract Malaysian workers.

The Malaysian Chinese Association and the largely Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP) were concerned that the influx of Indonesians could alter the sensitive racial and ethnic balance.

Meanwhile officials of both the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and the opposition Islamic Party (Parti Islam or PAS), often saw the Indonesians as a potential boost to the Malay side. Passing out permanent residency cards to illegal Indonesian workers during election campaigns became a particularly notorious practice in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, on the northeastern coast of the island of Borneo.

By the mid-1980s, the Malaysian public, like its counterpart in other labour-receiving countries, was beginning to hold immigrants responsible for a rise in crime, prostitution and other social ills. This made it imperative for national politicians to be seen to be protecting the country's borders by detaining and deporting workers who lacked proper documents.


Migrant workers suffer from a range of abuses. Between 1990 and 1995, some 500 illegal workers are estimated to have drowned in the Straits of Malacca while trying to reach or return from Malaysia. Others suffer from frequent illegal detention, forced labour and torture.

The remainder of this article focusses only on Indonesian women. Poniyah binti Winarto, aged twenty, was a single woman from Central Java. In early 1994, she had come to Malaysia legally through an Indonesian agency. She had paid RM1,000 (AU$550) to get to Penang from Jakarta and, through a Penang-based Malaysian agency called Pelita Baru Sdn Bhd, was placed with a Chinese family in Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur.

For the next ten months, she worked eighteen-hour days without pay, although her salary was supposed to have been RM300 (AU$165) a month. Her employers, Mr and Mrs Liu, kept her passport, and she was not allowed to leave the house. She could have an hour off each day but never had a day off. She was not allowed to send any letters out of the house, and could not contact the agency or members of her family.

Run away

In November 1994, she decided to run away and met an Indian man who promised to help her in exchange for RM300. She took the money from Mrs Liu's purse and gave it to the man, but he just took it and never came back. When Mrs Liu discovered that her money was missing, she accused Poniyah of stealing RM1,000. She began steadily inflating the amount until by the next morning, the amount allegedly stolen was up to RM5,000.

At the same time, her employers took pliers and pinched her midriff and her nipples with the pliers, and began pulling out her hair. They also hit her on the ankles with a ceramic mug. The use of pliers and the systematic depilation continued until February 9, 1995, when with the help of another maid working at the house, she managed to escape and report to the local police station.

The police took down her report, then got her to University Hospital in Kuala Lumpur and called a women's organisation to help her. By that time she was almost bald, and there were scars of the pliers all over her body. Her nipples had been pinched until they bled. Poniyah was able to get her passport back, but no charges were ever brought against the Lius.


Women domestic workers around the world are less protected and may face greater exploitation than any other group of migrants for several reasons. The fact that they live in their employees' homes means that they are separated from other workers and do not have witnesses, or the protection of others, in cases of inhumane working conditions or sexual abuse. The boundary between work and leisure is often blurred, if it exists at all, and many women routinely work fifteen-hour days and longer.

Illegal confinement to the house is facilitated by the practice of employers holding on to the women's passports for safekeeping and occasionally as a check against escape. Many countries require employers to deposit a large security bond against possible illicit activities of the foreign workers, giving the employers the incentive to restrict domestic workers to the house as much as possible. Domestic workers are also often specifically excluded from labour legislation and government policies designed to safeguard workers against abuse.


All of these factors are operative in the case of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia, with the added problems that many of the women are poorly educated with no more than an elementary school education, and many are in Malaysia illegally. Their difficulties are exacerbated by the fact that migrant women tend to be viewed in a negative light by both Indonesian and Malaysian officials, despite the fact that they are major sources of income for both through recruitment fees and the foreign workers levy respectively.

Indonesian officials we spoke with portrayed single women who worked in Malaysia as social misfits who could not get a husband or who had personal problems at home that prompted them to leave. (Male migrants, on the other hand, were seen as adventurous and entrepreneurial). From their statements in the press, many Malaysian officials appear to view maids, particularly Filipinas but other nationalities as well, as potential prostitutes, and round-ups of foreign women are conducted not just in the name of stopping illegal immigration but stopping vice as well.


There is in fact a link between domestic service and prostitution among Indonesian women, but it is not the one Malaysian officials are making. As the demand for maids increases and more and more Indonesian women go to Malaysia, it becomes easier for traffickers in women to make their victims believe the promises of good jobs with nice families at high wages.

Particularly in East Java, where much of the trafficking is focussed, a young woman who is regaled with stories of the good life in Malaysia can often see direct evidence of the wealth to be made from others in her village who have worked as maids. She has no way of distinguishing between the tekong recruiting illegally for maids, and the trafficker seeking women for brothels. Indeed, it may be a Malaysian agent who determines who goes to brothels and who goes into domestic service from among the women he receives from the tekong.


The demand for maids in Malaysia has skyrocketed in recent years, as more and more middle class Malaysian women enter the labour force and need someone to look after their children. The number of Indonesians legally registered as domestic workers rose from 39,112 in 1993 to 57,563 in August 1995, out of 124,400 legal foreign domestic workers in the country. The number of Indonesian domestics was more than double the number of legal Filipina maids, according to official Malaysian statistics.

The demand for Indonesian women was already high by 1992, as evidenced by companies set up exclusively to send or recruit Indonesian domestic workers in both Indonesia and Malaysia. A company in Pekanbaru was sending 500 Indonesians a month to Malaysia, 400 of them women and almost all of those domestic workers.

The overwhelming majority of the women recruited for work as domestics are Javanese, but Sumatrans and Madurese are also well- represented. Recruitment of women in Kalimantan also has been stepped up as the demand for domestic workers has increased in Sabah and Sarawak. Not infrequently, women are recruited, taken illegally to Malaysia, and held by the Malaysian agent who waits for the highest bidder, who might be a sawmill owner, a family needing a domestic worker, or a brothel owner.


Many women are treated well and paid regularly, but the nature of domestic service does render women particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

One of the few organisations in Malaysia that provides assistance to Indonesian workers, the Indonesian Workers Welfare Association or Persatuan Kebajikan Anak Indonesia (PKAI) in Kuala Lumpur, received 212 complaints between February 1994 and September 1995. Of those, 30.6% were registered as 'failure to pay wages', and a third of those were lodged by domestic workers. But 'failure to pay wages' was usually short-hand for a much more complex set of problems as some of the entries in PKAI's log book illustrate.


One case reported in September 1995 involved an Indonesian domestic worker named Eti. At the beginning of August 1994, Eti, aged thirty-two, left her home in Malang, East Java and registered with a recruitment agency, PT Duta Ananda in Jakarta, to work in Sarawak as a maid. Two weeks later, after paying Rp500,000 (AU$250), she was sent by ship to Pontianak in West Kalimantan, together with dozens of other migrants.

After a week in Pontianak, she was taken to Sarawak via the border crossing of Entikong, and put to work as a maid in the home of a Malaysian recruiting agent in Kuching. She was promised a salary of RM230 (AU$130) a month and a two-year contract. But she found herself working from 4.30 am until 9.00 pm without a break, and forbidden to go outside the house. When her employers went out, they locked the doors from the outside. They also placed a lock on the telephone, so Eti could not call anyone for help.

In October 1995, after a year of working under such conditions without receiving any wages at all, Eti finally managed to call the Indonesian consulate in Kuching after her employers went out and forgot to lock the telephone. The consulate managed to get the employers to pay ten months of wages but at 50% of the promised rate. The other two months, they said, were deducted to pay the costs incurred by PT Duta Ananda in bringing Eti to Malaysia.

Many Indonesian agents simply collect women and turn them over to their Malaysian counterparts. The women themselves have no idea who they will be working for, or where in Malaysia they will end up. They place total faith in their recruiter, who is often an acquaintance or friend of the family, to take care of them.


The rise in the Malaysian demand for Indonesian maids has been accompanied by an apparent increase in cases of trafficking of Indonesian girls and women into Malaysia for prostitution - apparent because no statistics are available on such a sensitive issue, and the number of articles appearing in the press of both countries is only a guide. (The rise in the number of Indonesian male migrants may also be a factor in the apparent increase).

The pattern of trafficking is all too familiar. It is virtually identical to that of Burmese women trafficked into Thailand or Nepali women into India. A friend or a relative, acting as an agent or a pimp, approaches a young woman, almost always from East Java, although there has been some trafficking of women from Kalimantan into Sabah.

The agent speaks in glowing terms of the money to be made in Malaysia from working in a hotel or a restaurant. The young woman, usually aware of other women in her village who have returned from Malaysia with consumer goods, agrees to go. The usual route is bus to Surabaya, plane or boat to Ujung Pandang, Ujung Pandang to Pare-Pare, across to Nunukan in East Kalimantan, and then into Tawau, Sabah. There the women end up locked in one of the seedy-looking brothels near the bus terminal.


In June 1992, nine young women, aged sixteen to twenty-two, were found locked in Hotel Tawau where they had been forced to work as prostitutes. They had been there for two months when two of the women managed to escape and report to the Indonesian consulate. For the two months, they had not been given food if they refused to take clients, and were kept under constant guard.

The nine women had been recruited by an agent based in Tuban, who promised them all good jobs as waitresses. When they had arrived at the Plaza Tawau hotel, they were sold to pimps. A woman named Yayuk, from Probolinggo, East Java, was sold for RM1,500 (AU$825). The women told police that some forty Indonesian women were kept under lock and key at the hotel by eight pimps.

At the same time that the story of the nine women surfaced, police in Tarakan, East Kalimantan, reported foiling four other cases of trafficking. A waiter from the Plaza Tawau hotel was caught in Tarakan trying to smuggle two women from Sidoarjo and Bojonegoro, East Java. Both had been promised work in a resort hotel in Lahad Datu, Sabah. The other women from Kediri and Sidoarjo were rescued from a pimp who was bringing them to a brothel called the Chester Inn in Tawau. Ten cases of trafficking of women into Tawau had been reported in 1991, and the journalist who reported the new cases wrote that the number was rising.

Sidney Jones is regional director of Human Rights Watch for Asia. This article is extracted from a report to the Canberra INFID conference.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Fauzi Abdullah: 'Labourers won't bow to repression'

Fauzi Abdullah has been close to factory workers for over 15 years, and has witnessed their frustration rise. Today he heads a labour study centre (LIPS) in Bogor. He recalls the first strike he saw close-up, and risks a look into the future.

When did you become involved with labour?

I started working at the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) in Jakarta in about 1978. I had almost finished my studies and was tutoring English literature at the University of Indonesia. I worked part- time at LBH for the money.

There was as yet no special labour programme at LBH. But in 1980 the PT Textra case broke out. Workers came to LBH and I sat in. Then almost every night I went to their home, to learn about labour with them. Gradually we became friends. I noted it all down - they didn't know. They looked me up at LBH, even though I was not a lawyer. They wanted a place for protection, but also to learn. They would open books about the law. But they lacked confidence.


They were angry because they got no official wage. They were supposed to be in training and got only pocket money, even though they had been working for years. But they never did anything about it, until one day their boss asked them to sign a blank form. This made them suspect the company wanted to tell the government they had been employed as full workers, but in fact would keep them on the training rate. This drove them to organise, and to demand increased wages and other things.

They wanted to organise a labour union, but they got nowhere. They invited the state-sponsored textile union (within SPSI) to come and meet with them, but the union officials didn't come. However, the next day the company invited these same officials to come and they came. So the union that eventually came about was one set up at the initiative of the company. This made them disappointed, also with the SPSI.

Soon after that they were fired, and then they found out that all the companies had a blacklist. When one of them was accepted at a nearby company as a forklift driver, they saw their own name on a blacklist circulating among the companies, and did not get the job.

They realised that if there was no cooperation between labourers, it would be difficult. So I joined them to try to work out how they might get together. This is how LBH's labour programme came about.

Now it is 15 years later. Has the situation changed fundamentally?

I do not yet see a fundamental change. Labour is still in a weak position. The only change I see is that workers are becoming more outspoken. Now they come to us much more to ask for help. Pressure for change comes from outside and inside the country. The government is learning that harsh methods of military intervention can never be permanent. People will get tired of it.

The harshest times were when Sudomo was commander of the extrajudicial military agency Kopkamtib, and then as Labour Minister. He permitted military intervention in strikes. But in fact this caused the number of strikes to increase sharply. That was from 1980 onwards. Between 1985 and 1987 the number of strikes began to decrease, even though the policy was still the same. But in 1990 they increased once again. Labourers won't bow to repression.

But aren't there so many looking for work in Indonesia that a company can afford just to fire those who want to strike?

Yes, but that's no excuse for arbitrary behaviour. Seen objectively, a company has a very strong bargaining position in a labour surplus economy. But we have to remember too that labour unrest creates difficulties. Even getting rid of 100 unskilled workers and replacing them with new ones certainly causes a disruption to the factory.

Looking into the future, do you see the government becoming more responsible, and SPSI becoming effective, for example because of an APEC social clause pushed through by America? Or do you see the government still keeping wages down so it can compete with Vietnam and the others, while labour organises independently?

This is speculation of course. But I see investment coming from the NICS - Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. We call this relocation investment. Perhaps middle level Japanese companies, not the big ones. Investment such as this looks for big profits, and will reconsider in about 8 or 10 years whether it wants to go or move elsewhere. These conditions ensure that labour conditions will remain poor, because this is short term investment. The government has to give facilities to investment of this nature. They have to compete with Vietnam and China.

But pressure from labour inside Indonesia will continue to increase, as it has done since 1990, in the form of strikes, and of media coverage of labour unrest. Overseas pressure will also increase, by a social clause or whatever. But the role of the independent labour unions such as PBBI and SBSI will remain important, increasingly so.

SPSI was never made to be an effective labour union. It was made for control. It is not impossible that it will change, but it will take a long time.

Where will change come quickest?

I think in the light industries there will be a lot of unrest - textiles, garments, plastics, shoes. There is strong competition from China, Sri Lanka, and so on. But it is also beginning in the white collar sector, for instance in banks. I think this will be important in the future. Because whereas labourers live from hand to mouth, these white collar workers are different. It is possible that in future they may work together, because white collar workers also have little power.

There is an argument that labourers should not demand so much because they themselves could suffer later if the company goes broke or moves elsewhere.

But does a company really move elsewhere only to find cheaper wages? I think they consider other factors, such as political stability. They like to have things predictable. And the so-called high cost economy (a euphemism for corruption) is also a factor - military intervention is part of that. It is said that only about 7.5-11% of production costs are spent on labour, while about 25-30% go to 'hidden' costs. The ratios between highest and lowest wages can also be as high as 200. So it's not as easy as saying a company will just shift if wages were to rise.

In recent years, the Jakarta area (Jabotek) has comes first in the number of strikes, then Surabaya, then perhaps Bandung, or Medan. In April 1994 about 25 companies got involved in the labour demonstrations in Medan. Before the strikes, the government had promised a wage rise at the end of 1993. But it was not implemented. Until the big demonstrations broke out. Then immediately afterwards the proposal was revived, and by August the new wage levels had been implemented. So from the point of view of improved conditions, the demonstrations were effective. At the end of the year there was a proposal for further increases in 1995, and these were not impeded.

In the past, the workers were considered invisible. They were only considered once they spoke out.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

Australians help codify Indonesian land titles

Australia's biggest aid project in Indonesia is designed to strengthen Indonesian land registration procedures. IAN ANDERSON of AusAID spoke with some INFID participants about the project.

AusAID recognises the value of land to people, Mr Anderson began by saying. Its value has to do with equity, social and political power, the environment and gender. Land was particularly important, he said, for people in densely populated areas.

Only 20% of Indonesian land is currently under 'valid' title. Perceiving a potential for major problems, the government went to the World Bank. The Bank conducted a feasibility study, and found a 90-year backlog of title registrations at the National Land Agency, even if no further land was sold in that time! Australia was then invited in because it was prepared to put up a straight grant (not a loan), and because of its demonstrated expertise from contributing to a similar programme in Thailand.


The land administration project is the biggest within Australia's bilateral aid to Indonesia, totalling approximately AU$26 million over five years. Australia is a junior partner with the World Bank, which contributes $80 million in loans, and the Indonesian government, which puts in about $45 million. Mr Anderson acknowledged in question time that 70-80% of the AU$26 million would come back to Australia, but this was not unusual in the aid world.

The outcomes from AusAID's involvement are expected to be as follows: 1) To register 1.2 million parcels of land, mostly in West Java. This will directly affect 4 million people. 2) To build a solid, reliable database on land laws and registration procedures, to be made available to officials. 3) To strengthen the relevant institution, namely the National Land Agency (Badan Pertanahan Nasional, BPN).

No customary title

Why West Java? Mr Anderson said this was chosen as the project area to avoid the difficulties of high uncertainty about customary rights found in other areas. At this stage, the project would not deal with customary lands in the Outer Islands. However, he did agree that the larger Indonesian project aimed eventually to register every parcel of land in Indonesia, including customary lands, under a uniform system.

The area around Jakarta is also experiencing rapid economic growth, leading to high demand to understand and access the land titling system. The project would not take away anyone's rights, he said, but would codify those rights. It will not deal with the issue of pre-existing inequitable land distribution.

One anticipated positive outcome is that it should raise the taxation base for the government, since experience elsewhere indicates the rich pay far too little tax on unregistered land. However, it will also benefit the rich, who have their larger land titles confirmed.


AusAID's role, implemented through a consortium of Australian companies, will be as follows: 1) To provide technical assistance and training in mapping, cadastral work, Geographical Information Systems, geodetic surveying, registration, etc. 2) To strengthen BPN by providing it with some surveying equipment. 3) To provide training to BPN staff. Eighty scholarships for officials will be made available for this purpose in Australia, and a further 24 in Indonesia.


Mr Anderson then bravely faced a barrage of questions. Some wondered how AusAID's stated appreciation of the non-economic value of land was being implemented in practice. Noer Fauzi, of the Bandung-based Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), challenged the market orientation of the project. He argued that pressure to register land is caused by a desire to acquire it for commercial purposes. This pressure is also the cause of the majority of land disputes. So where is the benefit to the people? Mr Anderson reiterated that to know who owned each parcel of land was of obvious benefit to everyone.

Galuh Wandita, from Oxfam-Australia in Jakarta, said BPN has gone on record saying that customary land rights should be abolished. She asked whether AusAID still thought BPN was the right department to deal with land registration in areas of customary ownership.

Carol Warren, an academic from Perth, said AusAID was supporting a capitalist land titling system that would not benefit a communalistic society. Certainly the work in the project area around Jakarta would primarily benefit industrialisation.


In response to a question from Christine Wheeler of CAA, Mr Anderson acknowledged that the maps produced by the project will be treated as Indonesian state secrets. However, experience in the Philippines had shown that a project of this kind can stimulate more openness, as it creates a large and legitimate demand for titling information among all sorts of NGOs.

Much as the project wished to remain purely technical, political questions were unavoidable, according to some other questioners. Maria Ruwiastuti, a lawyer who works in Sulawesi, put forward details of differences in the way BPN treats customary land in Java and outside Java. Meanwhile, Gerry van Klinken wondered if the project was prepared to break Indonesian law by registering large parcels of land. The ownership of large parcels is forbidden by a land redistribution law of 1960. But this law has not been enforced for 30 years, as the government labels it 'communist'.

The meeting closed with a vote of appreciation for Ian Anderson's readiness to discuss the project so openly with a rather critical audience.

Inside Indonesia 47: Jul-Sep 1996

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